History discussion questions


Abolitionism was the first racially integrated political movement in American history. Black orators, many of them fugitive slaves, helped to spread the antislavery message in the North and the British Isles. At every opportunity, black abolitionists offered a sharp critique of the nation’s claim to be a land of liberty.

The greatest oration on American slavery and American freedom was delivered in Rochester in 1852 by Frederick Douglass. Speaking just after the annual Independence Day celebration, Douglass posed the question, “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” He answered that July 4th festivities revealed the hypocrisy of a nation that proclaimed its belief in liberty yet daily committed “practices more shocking and bloody” than those of any other country on earth. “I am not included,” he declared, “within the pale of this glorious anniversary….This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.” Independence Day reminded blacks of “crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages” – a subtle repudiation of proslavery claims that blacks lacked civilization and therefore deserved to be in bondage. Like other abolitionists, however, Douglass also laid claim to the founders’ legacy. The Revolution had proclaimed “the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in [the] Declaration of Independence,” from which subsequent generations had tragically strayed. Only by abolishing slavery and freeing the ideals of the Declaration from the bonds of race could the United States recapture its original mission.

Read the attached document and answer the following questions:

  1. What does Douglass hope to accomplish by accusing white Americas of injustice and hypocrisy?
  2. What evidence does Douglas present to disprove the idea of black inferiority?

– At least 150words for each question (total is 300 words at least)

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